Shared from the 3/28/2019 The Age Digital Edition eEdition

Hearing aids you can wear day in, day out

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Dr Moh Dadafarin, director and principal audiologist at Ear & Hearing Australia.

More people are finding relief as devices become more sophisticated and significantly smaller.

The term ‘hearing aid’ often conjures a specific image of a bulky, beige device worn behind the ear in the ’60s and ’70s.

Throw back to the 19th century and ‘discreet’ devices included hearing aids shaped in the form of a ‘trumpet headband’ worn by women, as well as devices being concealed in couches, clothing and accessories.

Even further back, in the 18th century, ear trumpets were used to amplify sounds for those with hearing loss.

Fast forward to today and it’s obvious that massive technological advancement and innovation includes new hearing aids that are far smaller, more discreet and far more effective for wearers.

What endures, however, are concerns around appearance.

“I’ve found that the biggest issue discouraging people from wearing hearing aids is the stigma attached to the size and appearance,” says Dr Moh Dadafarin, director and principal audiologist of Ear & Hearing Australia.

Concern around size and visibility was historically about concealing a perceived disability. However, it spurred research and development.

Today’s models are sophisticated digital devices, many of which are ‘‘invisible’’ to the naked eye.

“Some hearing aids are now comparable to contact lenses,” Dr Dadafarin says. “We insert them deep in the ear canal next to the ear drum and they can stay there 24/7. Clients can wear the hearing aids while showering, sleeping and exercising, as they stay in the ear canal for months at a time.

“People think that using a hearing aid makes them look older. One thing I tell my clients is that their hearing loss might be more visible than an actual hearing aid. People can see that you’re not hearing them.”

Hearing loss can occur as early as your 20s. The average age of hearing aid wearers has dropped significantly over the years, too.

Innovation and digital signal processing, which emphasises sounds of particular frequency while blocking out unwanted noise, have brought hearing aids to their present form.

“They’re not just simple amplifiers any more,” Dr Dadafarin says.

Hearing aids can now identify particular environments and automatically adjust amplification levels to improve speech clarity. The use of two aids – binaural systems – means they connect to each other wirelessly and make adjustments to allow for better speech processing. Increased audio channels boost signal resolution, producing a more natural sound quality.

Bluetooth integration with smart phones has been a major breakthrough in this field. Working similarly to Bluetooth headphones, wearers can listen to music, watch movies, make video calls and listen to text messages.

Some hearing aids can now be fine-tuned remotely, so clients don’t need to see an audiologist as often as they might have done wearing an older model. Clients can also discuss their experiences and needs with their audiologist via video consultations and the audiologist can make adjustments accordingly.

“I advise people to look for professional and unbiased advice when considering a hearing aid and to make sure they receive proper after-fitting care,” says Dr Dadafarin.

“Audiologists at Ear & Hearing Australia are independent and not tied to any one particular manufacturer. We use a holistic approach to find the best solution and we provide premium hearing care to achieve optimum outcomes.”

‘Hearing loss might be more visible than an aid. People can see that you’re not hearing them.’

- Dr Moh Dadafarin

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